One of the things you can learn from M. Stanton Evans’ recent book on Joe McCarthy’s investigations, Blacklisted by History, is how deeply the FBI had penetrated CPUSA. One reason that McCarthy’s was sometimes unable to publicly substantiate his accusations was that he relied on secret information passed along by the FBI. McCarthy couldn’t identity the source of his information without compromising the FBI’s investigations, so when his critics tried to make it appear that McCarthy’s suspicions were without merit, McCarthy couldn’t simply say, “Here is the FBI file.”
As we see from this file, the FBI had access to the CPUSA mailing list, which is not the same as a membership list, but is certainly strong evidence when combined — as in Zinn’s case — with admitted high-level involvement in a slew of front-group activities.
UPDATE III: Even if all the other FBI files proved nothing, this 1957 memorandum based on information from a former CPUSA member would seem rather conclusive:
So, according to the informant, Zinn appeared to have been a member of the Brooklyn section of CPUSA before the informant joined that section in 1949 — tending to corroborate information previously developed by the FBI.
Here is something very interesting: George Kirschner is named as co-author of Zinn’s A People’s History of the United States: The Wall Charts. Whether this is the same person as the George Kirshner who reportedly hosted CPUSA meetings in Brooklyn in 1952 might be a subject worth researching.
At any rate, the fact that “Informant T-1” was “brought up on charges of ‘white chauvinism’ by the CP” is also very interesting. This was the kind of “thought-crime” inquisition to which CPUSA members were sometimes subjected. Certainly an avid Communist like the informant, who had been a Party member since 1948, could not have been an outright racist, so we don’t know why he would have faced such an accusation. But it should be kept in mind that Stalin purged and executed many of the original Bolsheviks on fabricated pretexts of “deviationism,” and a similar Stalinist impulse might have made “T-1” a scapegoat.
This would seem to be the clincher: “T-1” is reported to have taken a photo of Zinn teaching a class on Communist doctrine in 1951, and to have provided the photo to the FBI in 1956. Zinn reportedly “took the position [in the 1951 class] that the basic teachings of Marx and Lenin were sound and should be adhered to.”
In May 1955, the FBI had de-activated its “Security Index” card on Zinn, who at that time was working on his Ph.D. at Columbia University and teaching at Upsala College in East Orange, N.J. Zinn’s file was re-opened by the FBI’s Atlanta office in 1957, after Zinn joined the faculty of Spellman College in Atlanta. A few years later, during the Kennedy administration, Zinn wrote an article in the Sunday edition of the Daily Worker disparaging Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy and the FBI for their supposed failure to protect civil rights — without ever acknowledging that Zinn himself had been interviewed a decade earlier by the FBI for his own Communist activities.
UPDATE IV: A little more Googling turns up George Kirschner’s December 2008 obituary in the New York Times, with commenters memorializing his association with Zinn:
KIRSCHNER–George. Beloved grandfather and greatgrandfather, father, husband, teacher and friend will be remembered for his contagious smile and energy, unwavering principles, profound sense of justice, unequivocal commitment to activism, and open and welcoming heart. Born in New York City, George served in the US Coast Guard during WWII. He began as a brewer, later went to college, and found his professional love as a teacher of history at the Walden School in New York City.
His age and biography as a longtime New Yorker would lend credence to the suspicion Kirschner was the same as the “Kirshner” listed in the FBI files as hosting Brooklyn CPUSA section meetings. So we may therefore presume that Kirschner is, like Zinn, now the only kind of good Communist.
UPDATE V: FBI files from the 1960s connect Zinn to a Who’s Who of the New Left anti-war radicalism:
In 1966, the main publication of the Socialist Workers Party, the Militant, reported Zinn joining with then-SDS president Carl Oglesby on a committee to defend a South African activist. After the SDS split in 1969 that led to the formation of the Weather Underground, Oglesby subsequently became a JFK assassination conspiracy theorist.
Zinn participated in a 1967 anti-war “teach-in” at Harvard, sponsored by SDS in cooperation with the American Institute for Marxist Studies, an organization founded by historian Herb Aptheker, chief theoretician of CPUSA.
At an MIT teach-in, Zinn was joined by Noam Chomsky.
In one of Zinn’s most infamous exploits, he traveled to Hanoi in 1968 with the radical priest Daniel Berrigan, an event hailed at press conference involving Tom Hayden (SDS co-founder and principal author of the “Port Huron Statement”) and socialist/pacifist Dave Dellinger, subsequently of “Chicago 7” notoriety.
What we see in all this, then, is how Zinn’s career forms a major thread in a rope that connects ’60s radicalism back to the Stalinism of the 1940s and ’50s. Zinn was a consistent advocate of Marxist-Leninist doctrine throughout his career, and it is amazing that his teachings — his anti-American history — are so popular nearly two decades after the collapse of the Soviet Union.
America won the Cold War, but the Communists won the campuses.”
Did America win the Cold War? Or was that victory simply a propaganda coup?